|Cooper (Cooper Car Company)|
Monday, 05 September 2005 10:28
Cooper (Cooper Car Company)
The Cooper Car Company was founded in 1947 by Charles Cooper and his son John Cooper. Together, they began by building racing cars in Charles' small garage in Surbiton, Surrey, England in 1947. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, they reached auto racing's highest levels as their rear-engined, single-seat cars altered the face of Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and their sedans dominated Rally racing. Thanks in part to Cooper's legacy, Britain remains the home of a thriving racing industry, and the Cooper name lives on in the Mini Cooper production cars that are still built in England but are now owned and marketed by BMW.
From Shortage, Innovation
They must have supposed that even if the handling problems attributed to the Auto Unions were real, they would be more manageable with an engine little more than a tenth the size.
Called the Cooper 500, this car's success on the track instantly created a demand from other drivers (including, over the years, Stirling Moss, Peter Collins and Bernie Ecclestone) and led to the establishment of the Cooper Car Company to build more. The business grew by providing an inexpensive entry to motorsport for seemingly every aspiring young British driver, and the company became the world's first and largest post-war, specialist manufacturer of racing cars for sale to 'privateers.' Built with parts salvaged from military barracks and aircraft factories, and fitted with a series of different motorcycle engines, Cooper 500s won 64 out of 78 major races between 1951 and 1954.
The front-engined Formula 2 Cooper Bristol was driven by a number of legendary drivers -- among them Juan Manuel Fangio and Mike Hawthorn -- and furthered the company's growing reputation by appearing in Grand Prix races beginning in 1950. It wasn't until the company began building rear-engined sports cars in 1955 that they really became aware of the benefits of having the engine behind the driver. Based on the 500cc cars and powered by a modified Coventry Climax fire-pump engine, these cars were called "Bobtails." With the center of gravity closer to the middle of the car, they found that it was less liable to spin out and much more effective at putting the power down to the road, so they decided to build a single-seater version and began entering it in Formula 2 races.
Brabham took the Championship-winning Cooper to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a test in 1960, then entered the famous 500-mile race in a modified version of the Formula One car in 1961. The "funny" little car from Europe was mocked by the other teams, but it ran as high as third and finished ninth. It took a few years, but the Indianapolis establishment gradually realized the writing was on the wall and the days of their front-engined roadsters were numbered. Beginning with Jim Clark, who drove a rear-engined Lotus in 1965, every winner of the Indianapolis 500 has had the engine in the back. The revolution begun by the little chain-driven Cooper 500 was complete.
Once every Formula car manufacturer began building rear-engined racers, the practicality and intelligent construction of Cooper's single-seaters was overtaken by more sophisticated technology from Lola, Lotus, BRM and Ferrari. The Cooper team's decline was accelerated when John Cooper was seriously injured in a road accident in 1963 driving a twin engined Mini and Charles Cooper died in 1964. Their final Formula One victory was achieved by Mexican driver Pedro Rodriguez at the 1967 South African Grand Prix. In all, Coopers participated in 129 Formula One World Championship events in nine years, winning 16 races.
After the death of his father, John Cooper sold the Cooper Formula One team to the Chipstead Motor Group in April, 1965. John Cooper died on 24 December 2000
Several different Cooper-marked versions of the Mini and various Cooper conversion kits have been, and continue to be, marketed by various companies. The current BMW MINI, in production since 2001, has Cooper and Cooper S models and a number of John Cooper Works tuner packages.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 31 August 2006 01:20|